Hospitals, especially those with designated major trauma centres, depend on their emergency theatres to deliver life-saving treatment. So, when an air handling unit (AHU) needed an overnight repair, Sulzer engineers were reportedly able to complete the project and ensure no operations were cancelled.
Sulzer often works with hospitals on planned maintenance tasks, repairing and replacing fans, motors and other equipment as the need arises. Through these partnerships, the company was recently asked to assist with an urgent repair.
Maintenance engineers at the hospital had investigated a vibration problem with an air handling unit that supplied emergency theatres. Having identified a catastrophic bearing failure, they realised that an immediate repair was required and called the local Sulzer Service Centre.
The initial site visit was made on the Saturday when they assessed the damage and checked the dimensions of the shaft. The fan within the air handling unit, which was originally manufactured in 1970, measured approximately 1.5 meters in diameter and was supported by a 38 mm shaft.
The original bearings were non-lubricating pillow block bearings which had been recommended by a local supplier. These had failed due to a lack of lubrication, which resulted in damage to the shaft and a considerable amount of vibration in the fan unit.
Sulzer proposed the manufacture of a new shaft and the installation on new split bearings that would improve the performance of the fan and reduce the maintenance requirements for the future.
The duty engineer at the hospital approved the suggested solution and urged the repair to be completed at the earliest opportunity. Sulzer immediately ordered the new bearings and the replacement shaft was manufactured at the local service centre overnight.
On Sunday, the engineers returned to the hospital with all the new components and installed the shaft and bearings. With the new parts in place, the fan was checked and dynamically adjusted for balance and the final vibration results were sent directly to the duty engineer as confirmation of the completion of the repair.
Paul Stevens, Sales Engineer for Sulzer, commented: “This repair was all about speed and delivering a robust solution that would last for many years to come. Understanding the needs of the customer and the importance of completing the repair on time is a speciality of ours.”
For every hour that the emergency theatres are out of action, there is a cost of £2,500 per hour as well as the inconvenience to patients of having to rearrange operations. By completing the repair over the weekend during a planned maintenance period, Sulzer helped the hospital to avoid these costs and return the operating theatres to the medical staff.
Since the repair, the slightly smaller AHU for other theatres at this hospital was also inspected, identifying a similar level of vibration. To resolve this, Sulzer proposed a replacement shaft and split bearings to be installed during a planned maintenance period, minimising downtime within the department.
Stevens concluded: “The repair of the shaft and bearings was completed by 5 pm on Sunday and the speed of the repair was very much appreciated. In fact, the Theatre Manager advised us that we had avoided having to cancel up to nine operations that were planned for Monday.”